Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, May 29, 2009

An Awe-inspiring Memoir

Just finished reading one of the most powerful and awe-inspiring memoirs I've ever read: "Sixtyfive Roses: a sister's memoir, by Heather Summerhayes Cariou. Heather's sister, Pammy, was born with Cystic Fibrosis, an incurable disease. She couldn't pronounce it properly--she would say she had "sixtyfive roses."

Before I get into why this is a "must read," in my humble opinion, I want to tell you how I discovered this book. I belong to several internet writing groups, one of which is Story Circle Network. When I received a negative review from a blogger, I wrote to the SCNlifewriters group asking for advice on how to handle it. Heather's response was thoughtful, kind and generous. I immediately went to Amazon.com to order her book. The online community of writers supporting writers is something I wouldn't have believed possible if I hadn't experienced it myself.

My intention here is not to write a book review for Heather. Rather, I want to acknowledge, as one memoir writer to another, the extraordinary feat Heather has accomplished by putting this story out in the world. It took her 20 years to complete this project (please visit womensmemoirs for a fascinating interview with Heather). It is the story of a family's struggle to deal with having not one, but two children diagnosed with a fatal illness. It is a story of love, anger, the losing and finding of one's faith, and the harsh realities coping with a disease like cystic fibrosis imposes, physically, emotionally, and spiritually on both the one with the disease, and the ones who love them.

Despite knowing the outcome of the story from page one, it is nonetheless compelling and page-turning. It reads like a novel, which was Heather's intention. She succeeded brilliantly. This is some of the best writing I've seen, in both fiction and memoir. From a craft standpoint, the characters are rounded, the language lyrical, the use of metaphor and description extraordinary, and the blend of narrative and reflection is seamless and balanced.

My take away from reading this book, and the main reason I think everyone should read it: Pammy knew from the time she was diagnosed at four years old that she was going to die. From that, through Heather's telling of her story, we learn how to live. This is one of those books that I do believe will change my life, if I can manage to inhale Pammy's words of wisdom.



Patricia Stoltey said...

I appreciate a sincere recommendation of what must be a fascinating and poignant memoir. Another book added to my reading list.


N A Sharpe said...

Sounds like it must be a very touching story indeed.

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Sounds like an extraordinary story.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is a convincing post... I wanna read the book!!

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the recommendation. As a memoir writer myself, I do find it very interesting.

The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

The Practical Preserver said...

Nice post, Karen. Some people live more fully than others and many of these folks are living with illness.

Galen Kindley said...

I gotta admit, to my shame, I never much thought about memoir writing. Dunno why, it was just never on my radar. But, Karen, thanks to you, and posts like this, I’ve developed an awareness and interest. Expanding horizons is always a good thing.
Best Regards, Galen.

Helen Ginger said...

What a wonderful recommendation. I don't read many memoirs, but this one sounds so compelling!

Straight From Hel

K. A. Laity said...

Sounds inspiring!